Friday, April 10, 2009

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

This weekend is Easter, and I would not feel right if I did not share some thoughts and  feelings about this sacred holiday.  
So much time, effort and work...not to mention money goes into the celebration of Christmas, but only a small amount for Easter.  However, of the two holidays, Easter is the one of greater importance.   It's Easter, not Christmas than truly defines Christianity.  It's great to remember the birth of Jesus, but it's Easter that celebrates the purpose of his life.  He was born so that he could die for us, so that we might live.

A friend once asked me why Jesus had to die.  This person said,  "I know he was the son of God and he was raised from the dead...I believe all that, but I don't understand why he needed to die?"   The answer is because I am a sinner...and so are you.  And even though you and I may be good people, and do many good things, we are sinners and our sin separates us from God.  God did not create us to be sinners, but when Adam disobeyed God, he brought sin into this world and we were born under it's curse and damnation.  If we remain in our sin, we will be eternally separated from God.  (please see Romans 5:17,18)

God taught this to the children of Israel when he had them construct a Tabernacle and later a Temple, in which there was a "Holy of Holies" ... a dwelling place for God.  No one could enter in except for one day a year, the Day of Atonement.  On that day, the priest, after proper preparation would be allowed to enter to "...make an atonement for you before the Lord your God." Leviticus 23:28 (see also Heb. 9:7, Exodus 12:13)
Atonement means a reconciliation between God and man.    Scripture teaches that God requires the shedding of blood, pure innocent blood, to pay for sin.  "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul"  Lev. 17:11.  

God also taught this to the Israelites by having them sacrifice their most flawless animal to atone for the sin in their life.  Obviously, that was symbolic of what was to come when God sent his son to be that perfect sacrifice for us.  Romans 6:23  teaches "...the wage of sin is death," (eternal death or hell).  We can't atone for our own sin, so death & hell would be our only future, but the second half of that verse say "...but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Hallelujah!!!

Jesus, who did no wrong, willingly took my sin, and yours, onto himself.  I don't know exactly when all the sin of world was placed on him, probably in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was there that in great anguish he cried out to the Father, "...if thou be willing, remove this cup from me..." Luke 22:41  Why was he in such distress?  He knew what was going to happen, did he fear the pain and suffering he was about to experience?  I don't doubt he dreaded it, but I think what caused him to feel such turmoil and grief, was not the fear of physical pain, but the horror of having all the filth of the world's sin along with it's guilt, agony & grief placed on him, and knowing it would cause him to separated from the Father.  Never had he been separated from his Father, but now for a period of time, he would, and he grieved over having to endure that separation.  However, he knew that if he did not, we would have no hope.  It was his love for you and me that was greater than his fears or grief.  He could not bear for you and me to endure this life without the hope of redemption or to enter into the eternities without him.   What great love!!  He tells us that no man took his life...he gave it freely...for us, John 10:18.   He carried our sin upon him, had it nailed to the cross, shed his innocent blood to pay the debt and make atonement for you and me.  After his death the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies in the Temple was torn in two.  No longer did man need to be separated from God because of sin!  
The story does not end there,  Jesus conquered sin and it's penalty of death, by doing just as he had said he would, he rose from the dead through his resurrection on the third day.  
This is the Good News (gospel) of Jesus Christ!

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For if, when we were enemies (sinners) we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Romans 5:10,11.

"...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement (punishment) of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

This video is about a father who did the same thing that Jesus did.   Out of love for his child, he "took his place" and did what the child could not do.  The son had victory, not by what he did, but what his father did for him.  

Happy Easter!